No delay in legal review of heart unit proposals

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A JUDGE has ruled that a judicial review into the planned closure of Leeds’s childrens’ heart surgery unit will not be delayed.

The Save Our Surgery action group had asked for their legal challenge against the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) to be put on hold.

They had wanted to wait until after the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP)’s review into the planned closure was completed at the end of February.

But yesterday a judge ordered the judicial review to be heard over two days before February 15, weeks before the IRP reports to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Philip Havers QC, for SOS, argued Mr Hunt could make a decision based on IRP recommendations which would make the Leeds legal challenge unnecessary, and thus save a lot of expense.

But Dinah Rose QC, representing the JCPCT, argued the case should be heard as quickly as possible to avoid any further delay, which was already damaging children’s heart care services.

Speaking after the hearing, Sir Neil McKay, JCPCT chair, said: “Today’s judgment is a victory for families, parents and patients across the country. Save our Surgery Ltd brought a strange request to the court - to delay its own judicial review.

“This would have significantly delayed long overdue improvements to children’s heart services for months. The delaying tactics have failed.

Sharon Cheng of Save Our Surgery said: “Seeking a judicial review has always been our last resort option, hence today’s court case.

“However, given today’s events we understand that the Health Secretary agrees that there is overlap between our case and his referral to the IRP, and the court would therefore like the case to proceed.

“We feel that this is a positive step forward, especially as we now have a timescale for the hearing.”